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Why Lying On A Bed Of Nails Doesn’t Hurt

You've seen magic shows where the magician asks someone to lie down on a bed of nails. How can they do this without getting hurt?

nails on a white background

Photo: Mike Bitzenhofer (Flickr)

It looks like you should be saying, "Ouch!" However, lying down on a bed of nails does NOT hurt!

Have you ever laid down on a bed of nails? You were probably curious as to why it didn’t hurt.

What’s Going On?

A bed of nails works using weight distribution.

Think of it this way. You can press your fingertip lightly on a nail without it hurting. If you put the other end of the nail on a scale and then press, you can see how many pounds of pressure you can put on one nail without it hurting you. Don’t press too hard!

Supporting Weight

Suppose the answer is one pound. You can press down on a nail until the scale reads one pound, and beyond that you don’t want to press any harder.

Okay, one pound of pressure per nail is safe for you. So, if you weigh one hundred pounds, you can lie on a bed with at least one hundred nails on it and not be hurt.

That’s because each nail is supporting only one pound—your weight is evenly distributed.

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